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Abraham Lincoln's 


Excerpts from newspapers and other 


From the files of the 
Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection 

-7 / _2J>0°/ <J&ST03r»2- 

See also files titled "Abraham Lincoln and Religion" 

ABRAHAM LINCOLN was born in ISO!). 
** That is one hundred and eleven years 
ago, and it takes us back to within ten 
years of the death of George Washington. 
So it was that the lives of these illustrious 
statesmen spanned the greater part of the 
eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Wash- 
ington never knew Lincoln, of course, but 
his influence upon Lincoln was very great. 

V * * 

There is a charming little story of a 
backwoods boy, dressed in homespun, with 
deerskin leggings, a eoonskin cap upon his 
head, and clumsy moccasins of bearskin on 
his feet, hurrying across the fields to his 
home clutching something very precious 
in his hand. This was a book — a real 
, printed book — a book that told about real 
people and the big world. A neighbor had 
told the boy that he would lend him this 
book and that he might take it home and 
read it. Little Abe's heart beat fast. It 
was almost too good to be true. 

It is a pathetic story: the eagerness of the 
starving mind of the frontier child; the long 
day's work that summoned him with the 
morning light and prevented him from 
reading his beloved book; the hours stolen 
from sleep; the precious volume hidden 
away in a crevice between the logs of his 
cabin; the snow-storm that came in the 
night, covering his little bed with its white 
blanket and soaking the book from cover to 
cover; the sorrowful journey to the house 
of the neighbor and the sad story of the 
injury; the three days' toil in the cornfield 
to pay for the book, and the happiness at 
the end of that period that drove away all 
thoughts of his own aches and weariness 
in the acquisition of that wonderful book to 
be his very own. 

This book was the life of George Washing- 
ton, by Parson Wccms. There are multi- 
tudes of stories about the influence of 
books upon bojs and girls, and this is one 
of the best of them all. Long years after- 
ward, when the little boy with the honest 
blue eyes had come to be President of the 
United States, he told this story of his 
first book and said: "That book, the life 
of George Washington, helped to make me 
president of the United States." 

1 So Lincoln's life was the sequence of 

" Washington's, moral as well as temporal. 

" It is another case of Elijah's mantle falling 

' upon Elisha. 

V *• * 

These great men were different in many 
ways. Waslungton was the gift of wealth 
to his country; Lincoln was the gift of 
poverty. Washington's family owned a 
large estate; Lincoln's father sold his little 
scrubby farm in Kentucky for a few dollars 
and started down the Ohio River in a flat- 
boat for his new home in Spencer County, 
Indiana. The boat struck a snag, the house- 
hold goods slid into the muddy stream, and 
the Lincoln family was left penniless. 

Dr. Hallock tells us that when Washing- 
ton was elected president he was called the 
richest man in the United States; Lincoln 
was hard up for money all his life. Wash- 
ington wore silk stockings; Lincoln never 
had a pair of stockings on his feet until 
he was grown. Washington wore costly 
shoes with silver buckles; Lincoln wore 
shoes only in snow time, and those were 
rude ones made by his father's hands. 
Washington was clothed literally in purpl e 

profoundly religious men. Their broad 
philanthropy and intense patriotism were 
the outgrowth of their faith in God and 
their knowledge of his inspired Word. 

Captain Gilbert J Greene, who was a 
life-long friend of Lincoln, was Onco asked 
by Dr. Iglchart concerning Lincoln's re- 
ligious life. To this he bore strong testi- 
mony. He said that to his certain knowl- 
edge Lincoln was a faithful student of 
the Bible. There was a copy of the New 
Testament which constantly lay on his 
table. Its flexible cover was worn almost 
through by the rail-splitter's fingers. Mr. 
Greene said that Lincoln once recited to 
him Christ's Sermon on the Mount through- 
out without making a mistake. He told 
him that he considered Paul's sermon on 
Mars' Hill the ablest and most eloquent 
literary production ever spoken by mortal 
lips or recorded by human hand. 

*• * *» 

One day Lincoln said to him, "Gilbert, 
there is a woman dangerously sick, living 
fifteen miles out in the country, who has 
sent for me to come and write her will. 
I should like to have you go along with 
me; I would enjoy your company and the 
trip would be a little recreation for you." 
Mr. Greene cheerfully accepted the in- 
vitation. They found the woman worse 
than they expected. She evidently had 
only a few hours to live. When Lincoln 
had written the will and it had been signed 
and witnessed, the woman said to him: 
"Now I have my affairs for this world 
arranged satisfactorily. I am thankfid 
to say that long before this I have made 
preparation for the other life I am so soon 
to enter. I sought and found Christ as 
my Saviour, who has been my stay and 
comfort through the years, and who is 
now near 1 to carry me over the river of 
death. I'do not fear death." 

Lincoln said to her: "Your faith in Christ 
is wise and strong, your hope of a future 
life is blessed. You are to be congratulated 
on passing through this life so usefully 
and into the future so happily." 

have my heart." 

A tall pioneer in buckskin stood in the 
doorway. He saw the shadow of death in 
the cabin, but he wished to cheer his wife, 
and he said: "But he can't sing, Nancy." 

This was triif\ The mother was a sweet 
singer. She replied feebly: "The heart 
sings in many ways. Some hearts make 
other hearts sing. Abraham may not 
have my voice, but he has my heart 
and he may make others sing. 1 am tioing 

The pioneer and the boy watched her. 
She moved slightly from time to time. 
Nervously her fingers twitched the cover- 
lid. Once she opened her eyes. "Abraham!" 
she said softly, "My Abraham!" Once she 
tried to lift herself to see him. Then she 
trembled and lay still. 

"She is gone, Abra'm," said Thomas 

Father and son made her coffin with 
their own hands and buried her under the 
trees. It was a rude grave when it was 
finished. But since then, the people of 
Indiana have honored the memorj- of its 
occupant. A monument lifts its marble 
whiteness toward the sky, and pilgrims 
kneel at its base with prayers and thanks- 
giving. But long before her motherhood 
became sacred to the great Nation, a ragged, 
hatless boy sat on the grass-green mound 
and dreamed and listened in memory to 
the songs she had sung. 

* V *• 

In the dying testimony of Lincoln's 
mother we have the answer to our question: 
"Abraham Lincoln, you have my heart." 
What his friends observed Lincoln con- 
firmed many a time with his own testi- 
mony. It was the heart of his mother that 
inspired him all through his life. In the 
crises of the Civil War, when he had to 
sustain and to direct the fortunes of this 
great nation, it was his mother's faith that 
made his own and that strengthened him 
for his superhuman task. 

When the war was over and the great 
victory was won, there were great crowds 

She >asfcejd him if .he^ovould read a fcw^^PJ^ysdiog. the_ President one day nt the 

verses out! of the Bible to her. They* offered 
the book to him; he did not take it, but 
began to recite from memory the twenty- 
third Psalm. Then, without the book, he 
took up the first part of the fourteenth of 
John. After he had given these and other 
quotations from the Scriptures he recited 
several hymns, closing with "Rock of Ages, 
cleft for me." 

Mr. Greene says about the incident: "I 
thought at the time I never heard any elo- 
cutionist speak with such ease and power 
as he did. I am an old man now, but my 
heart melts as it did then in that death 
chamber when I remember how, with al- 

White Housed There were shouting multi- 
tudes all over the green lawn and the broad 
avenues. Old Glory rippled in the breeze, 
and far away the cannon of victory shook 
the hills and echoed over the broad river. 
Lincoln looked out upon the sea of hu- 
manity. The multitude hushed their 
cheering. His first words were: 

"I sinccrel}- thank God for the occasion 
of this call." 

None but he heard in these words the 
tones of that mother who was looking on 
him from the home of the angels. It was 
the same tono that he had heard so often 
in the shack cabin beneath the flaming 

most divine pathos, he spoke the last jnaples. 
stanza. A little while after, the woman> -. 

passed to her reward. As we rode home in 'I'ju 

the buggy I expressed surprise that he 
should have acted the pastor as well as the 
attorney so perfectly, and Lincoln replied: 
"God and eternity were very near me to- 

V * * 

Abraham Lincoln's faith in God is the 
faith that saved this nation in the dark 
hours of the Civil War. There is a great 
lesson in this for the rulers of our own day, 
and for us all, as we wonder in the midst of 
_oiir_coi]nt.rv'K- t.rouhlps_tuhi\t>.ht\j>n/l-iinILKf» _ 



February 10, 1922 

• i". 

^nToln » F»itor ■ Subject. 

•The Religion of Abraham Lincoln 
Was He Atheist or Christian? will °e 

the subject of an address by the Rev. 
L. M. Birkhead at All Souls Unitarian! 

church. 3425 Baltimore avenue, Sunday . 

Linorln Pmttmfi. 

August 2*942 

Publishqd bonthly sincf* 1928 
&4qS Medford Street, LcsAngeLos, California 

Defending Those Principles For Which Lincoln Stood 

"Take all the Bible upon reason that you can, and the balance 
on faith and you will live and die a better man. 7 ' Lincoln 

We s "iould adhere strictly to that American principle, of sep-' 
aration of church and state. V/hile sectarianism should be kept 
out of all of our public institutions;, the 'Bible should not be ex- 
cluded from any.... The Caliicrnie Constitution properly prohibits 
sectarian literature i. p the public school library or the teaching 
of sectarianism., directly or indirectly in the classroom. 

Those who opposed "Bible reeding m the public school £ 
that if they could get same court to rule that the Xing ' J-c-m 
was a sectarian book, that their victory wbuTd be wen. Ace 
in 1922 they got on App'eliate Court to so rule and for two 
the Bible was outlawed from both the public school libjfcry 
room. In 1924 the Trustees of the Sclira IJ\aion High School 
(Fresno' County) going against chat appellate court ruling r 
against the advise of the Attorney General, cr^rod. the' pur 
of twelve King -Turtles for the school library. The ca 
appealed to the State fupremo Court which, God bless them, 
down this favorable ruling, "For reference, and library pur 
the public sc.'iools, the Bible in the King Jamc-s version i_s 
book of the cluss prohibited, by the statutes." As regards 
reading in. the class room, the Honorable Court specifically 
'We are not required in this case to decide." 

fiSk Bible 
and class 

so was 
poses in 
not a 

Former Attorney General U. S. Webb gave as his opinion, that 
the Supreme Court, in its ruling, limited the Bible for Library pur*- 
poses only. 

In the event of a test case we are confident that the Honorable 
Court .would again come to the aid of the, Bible. In fact there arc 
some school districts in. California in which the Bible is road 
more or less. 

In Oceansido, (whore each class room is provided with a King 
James Bible ) ? a goodly majority of the voters interviewed have sign- 
ed the petit] on, addressee! to the legislature, seeking a state law 
to place a King James Bible in every public .school librrry, put on 
the teacher's desk, a book cf suitable scripture portirns, from 
which the teacher Shall read wit brut comment,, to the pupils at 
the opening of every school d'5y,''" T rni's is known as the Lincoln Plan 
for Bible Reading in the Public Schools. ' ' i 


The Rirlto sebcol districts r&optefl this vlvn in 1930. Af3 there 
is no law to the contrary the Trustees at the Oce<-nside Elementary 
schools h^ve been asked by b local "Bible in the School Committee", 
to supplement the Bibles already in the classrooms with o Scrip- 
ture book, as a reading quide for the teacher. If the Trustees 
deem it unwise to require the teacher to read the prescribed Script- 
ure portions, they might give permission so to read. 


On November 15, 1862, President Lincoln shows his deepening 
N, rB5Ligious o.onvlution, and his comprehensive faith in the fact that 
God rules in the affairs of nations as well as of individuals, by 
his famous "Sunday Rest Order". 

The President, Commander-inChief of the Army and Navy, de- 
sires and enjoins the orderly observance of the SabbatA by the off- 
icers and men in the military and naval service. The j importance 
for man and beast of the prescribed weekly rest, the $acred rights 
of Christian soldiers and sailors , a becoming deference to the best 
sentiments of a Christian people , and a due regard far the Divine 
"/ill, demand that Sunday Labor in the army and navy be reduced to 
the measure of strict necessity. 

The discipline and character of the national forces should not 
suffer, nor the cause they defend be imperiled by the profana- 
tion of the day or name of the Most High. "At this time of public 
distress"--adopting the words of Washington in 1776 — "men may find 
enough to do in the service of God and their Country Without 
abandoning them-selves to vice and immorality." The first general 
order issued by the Father of his Country, indicates the spirit in 
which our institutions were founded and should ever be defended; 
"The General hopes and trusts that every officer and man will endea- 
vor to live and act as becomes a Christian soldier defending the 
dearest rights and liberties of his country." 

Truly this is a Christian Nation constitutionally. 

Second National Fast-Day as follows in part: 

March 30, 1863, President Lincoln issued a proclamation 
appointing another national fast-day. It reads like the deliver- 
ance of one of the ancient prophets, as follows: 

And whereas, it is the duty of nations as well as of men to own 
their dependence upon the overruling power of God: to confess 
their, sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with asaured 
hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon: and to 
recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures .and 
proven by all iiistory, that those notions only a^fre blessed vhose 
God is the Lord: ■ ) 

E. F. Rudeen 

Lincoln to 
Be Honored 
in Churches 

Emancipator Called 
Deeply Spiritual 
Leader of People 

Times Religion Editor 

Abraham Lincoln, proba- 
bly a§ deeply spiritual in 
word and spirit as any White 
House resident, although he 
may never have professed 
himself a Christian, will bej 
honored in a number of 
Southland services tomor- 

Immanuel Presbyterian 
Church's weekly bulletin even 
drew on Comedian George 
Gobel for a phrase in estima- 
tion of the Great Emancipa- 

"You can't hardly get them 
kind no more," it said this 
week, in a paragraph penned 
by Atty. Melvin MacKinnon, 
president of the congrega- 
tion's Men's Council. Many a 
churchman would agree. 
Attended Church 

Although there is no proof 
that Lincoln joined any 
church, he regularly attended 
services at the New York Ave. 
Presbyterian Church of Wash- 
ington, D.C., and the Rev. 
Phineas T. Gurley, its minis- 
ter, was his close friend and 

More church news on 
Page 22, Part II. 

He was at the President's 1 
bedside when he died and of- 
fered prayer, later conducting 
funeral services for the mar- 
tyred executive at the White 

In 1850, Mr. and Mrs. Lin- 
coln took a pew in First Pres- 
byterian Church of Spring- 
field, 111., and occupied it fre- 
quently until they went to 
Washington for the first inau 

Records Kept 

The State Library of Illi- 
nois, at Springfield, has rec- 
ords of First Church, showing 
Mrs. Lincoln's membership, 
Tad Lincoln's' baptism and 
Mr. Lincoln's serving on a 
church committee to purchase 
an organ. 

It would seem, therefore, 
that Lincoln's inclination was 
toward Presbyterianism, al- 
though his spiritual feeling 
was probably completely in- 
terdenominational, or nonde- 

A minister in a delegation 
meeting with the President 
once hoped, it is said, that the 
Lord be "on our side." 

"I don't agree .with you," 
said Lincoln. 

"I'm not at all concerned 
about that, for we know that 
the Lord is always on the side 
of the right. But it is my con- 
stant anxiety"and prayer that 
I and this nation should be 
on the Lord's side." ' 

Baptism Claimed 

Some interest attaches, 
therefore, to a statement sent 
in by a reader. -It appeared in 
the Canton (0.) Christian, a 
Church of Christ publication, 
some time ago, alleging that 
the President was baptized in 
that church. 

The paper was edited and 
published by the late Pearl H. 
Welshimer of Canton. He was 
pastor for 50 years of a 6000- 
member church and held a 
number of high- denomina- 
tional positions before his 
death a few years ago. 

A story said that "in 1862, 
W. H. Morris, a minister of 
the Christian Church, was sta- J 
tioned with his regiment in! 
Arlington Heights across the 1 
river from Washington. Dur- 
ing this time Mr. Morris held 
a protracted meeting of about 
two weeks during which he 
baptized many of the men in 
his regiment. 

"Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Stan- 
ton attended his meetings 
nearly every night. Near the 
close of the meeting, Mr. Lin- 
coln came to him and said, 
'Morris, do you think it is I 
necessary for every person to 

be baptized?' The minister re- 
plied, 'It is not a matter of 
"think so" with me. It is a 
matter of revelation.' 

"He then proceeded to 
quote Scripture references at 
the conclusion of which Mr. 
Lincoln said, 'Well, Morris, I 
look at this matter just as you 
do and I intend to attend to 
it.' " 

Mrs. Lincoln, however, ac- 
cording to the article, "flew 
into a tantrum," and nothing 
was dona about it at the time. 

"Later on John O'Kane (he 
later was State evangelist in 
Indiana) actually baptized 
Lincoln," the article contin- 

Cried All Night 

"As Mr. O'Kane told it, 'On 
i the night before Lincoln was 
to be baptized, his wife cried 
all night. The matter was de- 
ferred, as she thought, but 
soon after Lincoln and I took 
a buggy ride. I baptized him 
in a creek near Springfield. 

" 'We changed into dry ' 
clothing and returned to the 
city and, by his request, Ii 
placed his name on the church 
book. He lived and died a| 
member of the Church of 
Christ.' " 

Supporting evidence for 
this account is lacking. 

In commenting on the gen- 
erally accepted belief that 
Lincoln never joined any 
church, the Rev. Emerald L. 
Olson of the Manhattan Beach 
Community Church said that 
the President remained out- 
side organized religion be- 
cause he could not find a 
church to meet his require- 

He will preach on "The 
Church Lincoln Would Have 
Joined" at 9:30 and 11 a.m. 
services tomorrow. 

God and Lincoln 

The Rev. S. Mark Hogue 
will speak on "God and Lin- 
coln" at 9:15 and 10:30 a.m. 
services at the Westwood 
Hills Congregational Church, 
1989 Westwood Blvd., West- 

The traditional Lincoln Dav 
program at the Spanish- 
American Institute, 15840 S 
Figueroa St., Gardena, today 
will feature a morning ad- 
dress by Dr. Melvin E. 
Wheatley, pastor of West- 
wood Community Methodist 
Church, and an afternoon or- 
atorical contest. Box lunches 
will be sold and the public is i 

The Evening Sun Baltimore, Maryland 
February 10, 1962 


L .'5°' n ^ as , Migious, Superstitious 

i..-,-.., _ _ . . scriptures; and I have never tnU u-„ r.u.-— » _ t . 


[Associated Press Writer] 

In 1846 there was a religious 
issue in an election campaign. 

Somebody claimed the candi- 
date for the House of Represent- 
atives from Springfield, Ill.-Abra- 
ham Lincoln— was "an infidel." 

"That I am not a member of 
any Christian church is true," re- 
plied Abe, honestly, "but I'have 
never denied the truth of the 


Scriptures: and I have never 
spoken with intentional disrespect 
of religion in general or of any 
denomination of Christians in par- 

Lincoln Won the election. But 
three years earlier it had been a 
different story. He had tried for 
the Whig party nomination with- 
out success, and laid at least part 
of the blame to religious intol- 
j erance. 

Suspected Of Being Deist 

"It was everywhere contended," 
he wrote, "that no Christian ought 
to go for me because I belonged 
to no church, was suspected of 
being a deist, and had talked 
about fighting a duel." 

Much has been written about 
Lincoln's religious beliefs, and as 
his birthday rolls around each 
year a popular pastime in some 
quarters is to try to figure out 
what denomination he belonged to. 
His own words, however, pro- 
vided the best insight regarding 
the innermost feelings of this 
deeply religious man. 

Told Cabinet Of Dream 
He admitted to be being super* 
stitious. In 1841 he wrote to his 
friend. Joshua F. Speed, of Louis- 
ville: "I was always superstitious. 
I bebeve God made me one of 
the instruments for bringing your 
(wife) and you together, which 
union I have no doubt he fore- 
And the day before his death he, 

^ h J S u C f bi , net 8bout a dr eam 
he had had the night before- the 
same dream he said he ' had 
dreamt immediately before all the 
great events of the war, 

But Lincoln also had a strong 
reliance on prayer. 

"I went to my room and got 
down on my knees in prayer " he 
said shortly after the Battle of 
Gettysburg. "Never before had I 
prayed with such earnestness. I 
felt that I must put all my trust 
m Almighty God. . . . I pra yed 
that he would not let the nation 

And on the Bible: 

"Take all of this Book upon rea- 
son that you can. and the balance 
on faith," he wrote to Speed in 
1864, "and you will live and die a 
happier and better man." 
Faith In Providence 

And a profound faith in Divine 

"If, after endeavoring to do my 
best in the light which (God) af- 
fords me, I find my efforts fail," 
he wrote in 1862, "I must believe 
that for some purpose unknown to 
me He wills it otherwise." 

Again, shortly before his death 
he wrote: 

"The will of God prevails. In 
great contests each party claims 
to act in accordance with the will 
of God. Both may be, and one 
must be, wrong. 

"God cannot be for and against 

the same thing at the same time 
in the present Civil War it is 
quite possible that God's purpose 
is something different from the 
purpose of either party; an d vet 
the human instrumentalities 
working just as they do, are the 
best adaptations to effect his pur- 
pose. r 

"This Is Probably True" 
"I am almost readv to say that 
this is probably true; that God 
wills this contest and wills that 

it shall not end yet He could 

give the final victory to either 
side any day. Yet the content 

Perhaps the most revealing dec- 
laration of Lincoln's religious 
attitude was summed up in the 
latter part of his life when he 
said: "I have never united my- 
self to any church because I 
have found difficulty in giving 
my assent ... to the long com- 
plicated statements of Christian 
doctrine which characterize their 
articles of belief. 

"When any church will inscribe 
over its altar, as its sole qualifi- 
cation for membership, the Mas- 
ter's condensed statement of the 
substance of both law and gospel 
'Thou shalt love the Lord thy 
God with all thy heart and with 
all thy soul and with all thy 
mind, and thy neighbor as thy- 
self' that church will I join with 
all my heart and with all my 

' - ' 

Anril 22 


Cleveland Plain Dealer fiapazino 

ioronto .'>u 

; ■■>' . ■'. 

I- ,; 

Is Abe Lincoln 
still in the 
White House? 

By, Al ten Spraggett 

♦ Does the ghost of Abraham Lin- 
coln still walk the halls of the White 
House?' , ; . ..'■'.';.' '<■/: ■' ■■;}. '; ; : ..:' r 

This questiph came up in a con- 
versation I had in Washington with a 
senator who shares my interest in 
psych i c p h enom'e n a, 

The senator said that there have 
been those in recent years who 
reported seeing Mr. Lincoln prowl- 
ing his old haunts, as it were. 

Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of 
F.D.R., was one of those who took 
such reports seriously. As a matter of 
fact, she had her own theory of what 
a jhaunting was and it agreed with 
the views held by many scientists 
who have studied the phenomenon. 
' ! Mrs; Roosevelt believed that/ as 
she put it/ any place where someone 
had lived hard would quite likely be 
Haunted by that individual's person- 
ality. •; ,., ; : j '■):/?• 

Parapsychologists-^sciehtists who 
study psychic phenomena— believe 
that, a house can retain impressions 
of those who have lived in it, long 
after the occupants are dead. This is 
particularly true if the occupant had 

a powerful personality; and even 
more so, if the dwelling was the 
scene . of strong emotionalism ,or 
tragic events. ; ■ 

This theory may account for the • 
numerous reported sightings of the 
ghost of Abraham Lincoln in the 
White House. Certainly he had a 
powerful personality. And certainly 
he experienced tragedy, as well as 
triumph, in the executive mansion. 

Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt told the 
following story: 

"I was sitting in my study down- 
stairs when one of the majds burst in 
on me in a state of great excitement. 
I looked up from my work and asked 
her what the trouble was." , 

'^'He's up there-fitting on the 
edge of the bed and taking off his 
shoes/ she exclaimed. i ,'■■ " „' 

"Who's up >'eF-e.-.ytakihg off his' 
shoes?" I asked.';, &&<£;*' & •'■'•'■'.. '%.'■ 

" 'Mr. Lincoln, Mr 'Lincoln/ the 
maid replied." V V ; 

Mrs. Roosevelt said she had al- 
ways felt that Lincoln's bedroom was 
haunted by what she called a serene 
and dignified presence, ■ 

One more example of the Unex- 
plained! . ; ':;- ; '■'■/hi i '%^.'4-¥\?k' 

; L' ■-. ; .' Toronto Sun j> 

Lincoln Ghost Reported Haunm^ Whste House 


Something is keeping the 
ghost of Abe Lincoln restless. 
Reported sights of his ghost In 
the White House are Increasing. 

Some reports claim the ghost' 
prowls the second floor of the 
White House near the historic 
Lincoln bedroom. Over the 
years, this is the one area 
where the ghost has been seen 
the most. 

When Franklin Roosevelt 
occupied the White House, his 
wife's servant, Mary Eban,. 
insisted that she'd seen Lincoln 
sitting in the northwest 
bedroom pulling on his boots. 
Various other servants also 
claimed they saw the ghost 
lying in his bed or standing 
quietly at the oval window 
above the main White House 
entrance. Mrs'. Roosevelt even 
said that altho she never actual- . 
ly saw Lincoln, she did feel a 
ghostly kind of "presence" 
sometimes, while working late 
at night. 

The valet of FDR reported 
that paintings would fall off the 
wall whenever someone con- 
nected with the White House 

Even Harry Truman 
acknowledged the Lincoln 
ghost in his 1945 book, Mr. Pre- 
sident: "My daughter and her 
two pals were sleeping in Lin- 
coln's bed tonight. If I were not 
afraid it would scare them too 
badly, I would have Lincoln 
appear. The maids and butlers 
swear he has appeared on sev- 
eral occasions. It is said that 
even Mrs. Coolidge saw him." 
Truman could possibly have 
aeen implying by this that he' 
considered arranging for the 
jhost to appear — as a joke. 

A few years ago, a White 
louse employe for 25 years 
[John Ficklin), reported the 
ollowing: "I've heard about all 
;inds of crazy things . . . lights 
;oing on and off, doors opening 
ind closing, knocks on doors 
ihen there's nobody there, Abe 
.incoln wandering the halls." 

Harry Truman also once told 
ow he heard a knock on his 
edroom door one night in 1946. 
'he knock kept up, so he went 
) the door. No one was there, 


but Truman could hear what she'd heard a knock at her door, 

sounded like footsteps going 
down the hall. 

Writing to his daughter, Mar- 
garet, Truman also wrote: 
•"This old place cracks and pops 

' all night and you can very well 
Imagine that old Jackson or 
Andy Johnson or some other 
ghost Is walking. Why they'd 
want to come back here I could 
never understand. It's a nice 
prison nevertheless. About 
these ghosts, I'm sure they're 
here and I'm not half so alarm- 
ed at meeting up with any one 
of them as I am at having to 
meet the live nuts I have to see 

.every day." 

But even royalty has seen the 
Lincoln ghost. Queen Wilhel- 

,mina of the Netherlands, dur- 
ing a White House visit, told 
FDR and Mrs. "Roosevelt that 

answered It, and fainted when 
she saw the ghost of Lincoln 
■standing there. 

Over one dozen dependable 
witnesses — White House staff 
employes to government offi- 
cials — have seen the ghost of 
John Kennedy. Even the late 
Lyndon Johnson saw it. LBJ re- 
portedly told a cleaning worker 
he'd just seen JFK. 

But the Lincoln ghost, of all 
ghosts seen in the White House, 
is apparently the most troubled 
or restless. It's of course a well- 
known fact that Lincoln, wlien 
alive, once saw his own body in 
a dream Jying in a casket in the 
East Room. 

More strange happenings 
have been taking place lately at 
the White House address on 
Pennsylvania Avenue. Staff 

members have told of lights on 
the second floor going on and 
off mysteriously, squeaking 
floors, and even wall pictures 
somehow, changing their posi- 
tions. • 

A Nixon aide even admits 
today that he doesn't relish the 
idea of visiting the second floor. 
Soon after the Nixons moved 
into the White House, this aide 
went up to the second floor to be 
sure all the lights were out. A 
few minutes after returning 
downstairs, the second-floor 
lights were on again with no 
explanation. "I hate to admit 
it," said the aide, "bat I won't 
go up to the second floor at 
night unless someone is with 

One thing seems certain. 
Ghosts who do their wandering 
in the White House obviously 
prefer to haunt In style. 

Volume 98-No. 37 






I— « 




























































































The Faith of 


David Bast 

"Was Abraham Lin- 
coln a Christian?" 

We had been en- 
joying casual con- 
versation around 
the dinner table, a 
group of us seated 
together at an eve- 
ning function. Some- 
how the topic had 
drifted to Lincoln 
and to his faith. "You 
hear a lot about Lin- 
coln and faith," 
someone said, "but 
was he really a 

I have long been 
drawn to this great- 
est of all Americans, 
drawn by his com- 
plex personality and 
strength of charac- 
ter, his eloquence, his wit, his good- 
ness, his towering accomplishments. 
t But I could not easily answer that 
question. What did Lincoln really be- 
lieve? What sort of faith drove, sus- 
tained, and comforted him? And could 
that faith which, admittedly, was unor- 
thodox by evangelical standards, be 
described as Christian? 

The question of Lincoln's personal 
religious convictions is vexing for a 
number of reasons. Like so many other 
aspects of his character, this one re- 
mains obscure first of all because of 

The Rev. David Bast is pastor of Fifth Reformed 
Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. All quotes 
taken from Speeches and Writings by Abraham 

Lincoln's reticence about himself. Lin- 
coln wrote extensively and compelling- 
ly about points of law or party strategy, 
about political questions of sectional 
or national interest, and, increasingly, 
about the one question that came to 
dominate all discussion— slavery. In 
arguing for his positions, he articulated 
clearly and compellingly the principles 
which led him to those positions, espe- 
cially the principle he believed to be 
the foundation of the nation: that "all 
men are created equal, and are en- 

dowed by their Creator with certain 
inalienable rights." 

But Lincoln did not speak about the 
deeper beliefs that led him to embrace 
his political principles. His letters and 
speeches contain a good many in- 
sights, but almost never insights into 
the deepest places of his own heart. 
One can read all of Abraham Lincoln's 
works and still come away feeling that 
the inmost man remains a mystery. 

Another reason for the difficulty in 
assessing Lincoln's faith is the quality 

FEBRUARY 1992 19 

of paradox that runs through his reli- 
gious life. Deeply devout and possess- 
ing a nature inclined toward spiritual 
things, Lincoln nevertheless was not 
formally committed to any creed. Hav- 
ing been raised on the backwoods 
frontier of southern Indiana and Illi- 
nois, he had very little exposure to or- 
ganized religion. "I've never been to 
church yet nor probably shall not be 
soon," the young Lincoln wrote a 
friend not long after moving to 
Springfield. "I stay away because I am 
conscious I should not know how to 
behave myself." As an adult Lincoln 
rented pews in and attended Presbyte- 
rian churches in both Springfield and 
Washington, but he never joined one, 
although his wife and children did. 

Lincoln has been described as the 
most spiritual of all presidents; certain- 
ly he was the most biblical, at least 
with respect to his knowledge of and 
love for the Scriptures. "It is the best 
gift God has given to man," he said of 
the Bible. "All the good the Saviour 
gave to the world was communicated 
through this book,.. .All things most 
desirable for man's welfare, here and 
hereafter, are to be found portrayed in 
it." His speeches were dotted with 
allusions and quotations from both 
Testaments, his thinking shaped by 
biblical teaching, his matchless prose 
echoing the sonorous beauty of the 
Authorized Version. No president made 
more use of the Scriptures than Abra- 
ham Lincoln. 

Yet he was more than once accused 
of spiritual infidelity. When he ran for 
Congress in 1846, Lincoln's opponent, 
a Democrat and Methodist preacher 
named Peter Cartwright, traveled the 
district informing the voters that Lin- 
coln was an unbeliever. In reply Lin- 
coln published and circulated a hand- 
bill that stated: 

That 1 am not a member of any 
Christian Church, is true; but I have 
never denied the truth of the Scrip- 
tures; and I have never spoken with 
intentional disrespect of religion in 
general, or of any denomination of 
Christians in particular....! do not 
think I could myself, be brought to 
support a man for office, whom I 
knew to be.. .[a] scoffer at religion. 

Leaving the higher matter of eternal 
consequences, between him and his 
Maker. 1 still do not think any man 
has the right thus to insult the feel- 
ings, and injure the morals, of the 
community in which he may live. 

But notice the ambiguity in this state- 
ment. Lincoln says he never denied or 
attacked the Bible or Christianity, and 
that he could never support anyone 
who did, but he does not positively af- 
firm what he believes. Is this merely 
clever lawyer's language to minimize 
the political damage of a serious 
charge (in nineteenth-century Ameri- 
ca, at least) without compromising his 
intellectual integrity? Or is it the care- 
ful response of a man who knows him- 
self to have been wronged by the 
spreading of an accusation that is un- 
fair because it is untrue, but who does 
not wish to make a political issue of his 
personal beliefs? 

Those who wish to turn to the works 
of historians and other writers to learn 
what Lincoln believed will find they 
have a bewildering— and conflicting- 
variety of views from which to choose. 
Even during his lifetime Abraham Lin- 
coln was the subject of myth-making. 
Honest Abe the Railsplitter, who went 
from log cabin to White House, was as 
much image as reality; then as now, 
image was often the result of good pub- 
lic relations. Lincoln had come from 
very humble origins and was largely 
self-educated, but that was not unusual 
in his time and place. The truth is, Lin- 
coln was a prominent and highly suc- 
cessful attorney, a speaker with a na- 
tional reputation, and a brilliant and 
ambitious politician, all before he be- 
came president. 

Following the assassination the Lin- 
coln myth grew to immense propor- 
tions. It is difficult to discern the truth 
about the man in the multitude of 
interpretations that sprang up after 
his death. The martyred president was 
portrayed as the model Christian, par- 
ticularly by earnest Victorian clergy- 
men. Some nearly deified Lincoln, de- 
scribing him in Christlike terms as one 
who gave his life (on Good Friday, no 
less!) to save a nation. In reaction to 
Lincoln's elevation to the spiritual 
leader of American civil religion, Lin- 

coln's old law partner William Hern- 
don wrote a biography that claimed 
Lincoln was a cynical agnostic, and 
people have been choosing sides since. 

So what did Lincoln really believe? 
Was he a Christian? He was certainly 
conscious of religious shortcomings. 
Delivering remarks to a Presbyterian 
assembly during the war, Lincoln con- 
fessed, "1 sincerely wish that I was a 
more devoted man than I am. Some- 
times in my difficulties I have been 
driven to the last resort to say God is 
still my only hope. It is still all the 
world to me." 

His faith was non-sectarian, al- 
though this is understandable given 
the way denominations had treated 

My wife has some relatives in the 
Presbyterian and some in the Epis- 
copal Churches, and therefore, wher- 
ever it would tell, I was set down as 
either the one or the other, whilst it 
was every where contended that no 
christian ought to go for me, because 
I belonged to no church, and was 
suspected of being a deist. 

His faith was also non-dogmatic; 
while Lincoln quoted Jesus and the 
Old Testament often, he seems to have 
been less fond of the doctrinal epistles. 
But that does not mean his faith was 
not real. A rare and affecting glimpse 
into Lincoln's own heart is offered in 
another letter, written to his step- 
brother in January 1851 after receiving 
news of his father's serious illness: 

I sincerely hope Father may yet re- 
cover his health; but at all events tell 
him to remember to call upon, and 
confide in, our great, and good, and 
merciful Maker; who will not turn 
away from him in any extremity. He 
notes the fall of a sparrow, and 
numbers the hairs of our heads; and 
He will not forget the dying man, 
who puts his trust in Him. Say to 
him that.. .if it be his lot to go now, 
he will soon have a joyous meeting 
with many loved ones gone before; 
and where the rest of us, through the 
help of God, hope ere-long to join 

It seems difficult not to conclude that 
someone who could speak this way in 
a private communication is a believer. 
But Lincoln's personal faith, or his 


elationship with God, is not what is 
elevant to us. Leaving aside the high- 
er matter of eternal consequences be- 
ween him and his Maker, it is more 
mportant to consider Lincoln's faith as 
t applied to issues of public life. 

The spiritual testimony of the ma- 
ure Lincoln is contained in his great- 
est speech, the Second Inaugural Ad- 
dress. This profoundest and most deep- 
y moving of all American political 
documents is really a sermon on a ser- 
es of biblical texts. In March of 1865, 
/vith the war grinding to its close, Lin- 
:oln was trying to make sense of it all. 

The catastrophe that had overtaken 
the whole nation, North and South, 
was more overwhelming than anyone 
had imagined. People were struggling 
to understand why it had happened, 
how a good God, in whom nearly ev- 
eryone on both sides still believed, 
could have allowed it. 

Lincoln's answer, forged out of his 
own suffering, his years of anxiety and 
toil, reaffirmed both the goodness and 
severity of God: 

The Almighty has His own purposes. 
"Woe unto the world because of of- 
fences! For it must needs be that 

Faith and the Country's Father 


George Washington was not an orthodox 
Christian, as some have claimed, nor an 
orthodox deist, as others have proposed. His 
personal theology, based on his own under- 
standing of the Bible and his reading of many 
Enlightenment thinkers of his time, was most 
likely broadly Unitarian, as was that of most 
deists of his time. Concerning revealed reli- 
gion and systematic theology, these deists 
were either privately skeptical (as Washington 
may have been), philosophically curious (like 
Thomas Jefferson) or belligerently argumenta- 
tive (like Thomas Paine). But they all believed 
in God and generally in life after death. As far 
as Washington was concerned, God was the 
Creator of the universe, and human affairs 
were guided by providence, the Almighty Be- 
ing, the Great Author or the Invisible Hand 
(terms often used by Washington). He highly respected the teachings of Jesus but upheld 
the right of every religious group— Protestants, Roman Catholics, and Jews— to freedom 
of worship and equality before the law, and condemned all forms of bigotry, intolerance, 
discrimination, and persecution. 

Most striking, after 1799 the first president became one of the most powerful symbols of 
national unity and a veritable totem of America's public faith. Not only was he regarded as 
the father of his country, but also as the American Moses who had led his people. God's 
New Israel, out of British bondage into the Promised Land of republican America. In sermon 
after sermon following his death, the clergy exalted him as the American Moses and the 
savior of his people. All of this was soon translated into a thousand sacred myths which in 
turn supported the unifying political superstructure of the nation's public faith. 

Washington, therefore, occupied a special place in the development of America's public 
religion. He gave it a voice, served as the focal point for its formation and encased his 
presidency in religion by his words and example, and through his powerful personality 
bestowed on the office a sacred aura. Quickly elevated to civil sainthood following his 
death, he also became the Moses figure who reminded his people that they enjoyed a 
common heritage and that God had chosen them as his New Israel for a new era. 
Washington not only provided critical leadership as the key founder of a new nation 
dedicated to republican ideals and human rights, but also formative leadership as the key 
founder of the public faith of that new nation. 

Source: Dictionary of Christianity in America. InterVarsity Press. 1990. Used with permission. 

offences come; but woe to that man 
by whom the offence cometh!" If we 
shall suppose that American slavery 
is one of those offences which, in 
the providence of God, must needs 
come, but which, having continued 
through His appointed time, He now 
wills to remove, and that He gives to 
both North and South, this terrible 
war, as the woe due to those by 
whom the offence came, shall we 
discern therein any departure from 
those divine attributes which the be- 
lievers in a Living God always as- 
cribe to Him? Fondly do we hope- 
fervently do we pray— that this 
mighty scourge of war may speedily 
pass away. Yet, if God wills that it 
continue, until all the wealth piled 
by the bond-man's two hundred and 
fifty years of unrequited toil shall be 
sunk, and until every drop of blood 
drawn with the lash shall be paid by 
another drawn with the sword, as 
was said three thousand years ago, 
so still it must be said "the judg- 
ments of the Lord are true and right- 
eous altogether." 

And then the well-known conclusion, 

With malice toward none; with 
charity for all; with firmness in the 
right, as God gives us to see the 
right, let us strive on to finish the 
work we are in; to bind up the 
nation's wounds; to care for him 
who shall have borne the battle, and 
for his widow, and his orphan— to do 
all which may achieve and cherish a 
just, and a lasting peace, among our- 
selves, and with all nations. 

Lincoln believed in the providence 
of God, God's government over human 
affairs. Lincoln believed in the holiness 
of God, and the justice of God in judg- 
ing sin, and in the responsibility of 
people to practice the will of God in 
human society. Lincoln also believed 
in the mercy of God and in the need to 
live out that mercy by showing love for 
neighbors, even for enemies. 

Whether or not he was a Christian 
is, for us, an irrelevant, perhaps an 
impertinent question. What is more 
significant is that for the American 
people in the 1860s, Lincoln's blend of 
political and religious feeling assured a 
broken and war-weary people that a 
new society could be better than the 
one before. □ 

FEBRUARY 1992 21 

Page 14 •The Napervllle Sun Sunday, February 12,1994 




The Naperville 


James Tezak, General Manager 

Tim West, Senior Managing Editor 

Bob Vavra, Assistant Managing Editor 

William J. Burghardt, Features Editor 

Jim Kutina, Photo Editor 

Stan Goff, Sports Editor 

Brian Kleemann, Entertainment Editor 

Lincoln's faith 

In the darkest hours of civil conflict, when it appeared noth- 
ing earthly could hold the Union together, Abraham Lincoln 
turned to the one guiding influence that had aided him so often 
before — his deep faith in the power of God. 

Today, as we observe the 186th anniversary of the Great 
Emancipator's birth, many students and scholars of Lincoln 
once again are sorting through his qualities and strengths, try- 
ing to discover the source of his greatness. As they do, they will 
focus on his courage, his strong moral convictions, his sense of 
humor, his humility and concern for others and, of course, the 
great accomplishments themselves. 

But what frequently takes the background in such discussions 
is the strength he gained from his complete faith in the Almighty. 
As the fighting raged during the Civil War, Lincoln said: "I am 
satisfied that when the Almighty wants me to do or not to do a 
particular thing, he finds a way of letting me know it. I am con- 
fident that it is his design to restore the Union. He will do it in 
his own good time." That faith was finally rewarded after four 
torturous years of conflict, and he lived to see its conclusion. 

This past December brought the death of D. Elton Trueblood, 
an eminent American theologian, for many years professor 
at large at Earlham College in Richmond, Ind. In 1973, he wrote 
a book titled "Abraham Lincoln: Theologian of American An- 
guish" which remains one of the most enlightening studies ev- 
er done of Lincoln's personal feelings and beliefs. 

In that book, Dr. Trueblood revealed a Lincoln few ever think 
about, an immortal leader of our country who once said and 
believed: "I have felt His hand upon me in great trials." When 
we look for the source of Lincoln's greatness, faith is an es- 
sential ingredient. 

Thus, on this weekend of special Lincoln observances, it is 
worthwhile to recall some of Dr. Trueblood's insights. The 16th 
president's humility, nurtured by his faith, caused him to accept 
his insignificance in the eyes of his maker, but he also firmly 
believed he was the tool God was using to accomplish his plan. 

As a result, prayer became a daily necessity to determine 
the path he should take. He prayed in time of crisis; he prayed 
in time of victory. He prayed by himself and he rallied the na- 
tion to prayer, for as Trueblood wrote : " He prayed for guidance, 
and he prayed in gratitude." 

Trueblood says Lincoln's extensive knowledge of the Bible 
enabled him to develop an unusual spiritual relationship with 
God. He firmly believed that God's will directs human beings, 
but Lincoln also became engulfed in anguish resulting from his 
struggle to determine God's will for him. 

Lincoln's faith was so strong that he used prayer not to dare 
try to alter the will of God, but to ask for direction and to dis- 
cover partially what God's will was. His own realization that 
he was but a tool in the hands of his maker nourished his hu- 
mility, enabling him to appear modest, while recognizing he 
had a destiny he must pursue. Coupled with that was his deeply 
embedded sense of moral purpose. 

In his major speeches, Lincoln relied heavily on his biblical 
knowledge. The "House Divided" speech is a prime example of 
Lincoln's use of the Bible in a public address. The words, "A 
house divided against itself cannot stand," are closely copied 
from those of St. Mark. 

The style of the Gettysburg Address closely resembles that 
of the Twenty-Third Psalm. Of the 265 words in the Address, 194 
are one syllable. The psalm, which Lincoln could repeat from 
memory, has 118 words, 92 of which are one syllable. 

Abraham Lincoln was without question a complicated man, 
thus the reason that scholars have devoted so much attention 
not only to his accomplishments but also to his makeup as a 
person. Faith was an essential element of his greatness. 

With our modern materialism and sophistication, many find 
it difficult to relate religion to our daily lives, but there is a les- 
son in Lincoln's faith. He showed that trust in a being far 
greater than himself gave him the courage to do the necessary 
things that ultimately carried him to greatness. — - 

Lincoln and the Paranormal; Investigative Files (Skeptical Inquirer May 1999) 

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Investigative Files 

Paranormal Lincoln 

Joe Nickell 

His guiding of the United States through its 
greatest crisis and his subsequent martyrdom have caused the 
shadow of the tall, sixteenth president to loom still larger. Called 
"the most mythic of all American presidents" (Cohen 1989, 7), 
Abraham Lincoln has long been credited by paranormalists with 
supernatural powers. These include an early mirror-vision, 
prophetic dreams, and spiritualistic phenomena. His ghost, some 
say, even haunts the White House. - 

In the Looking Glass 

Many people have portrayed Lincoln as a man given to belief in 
omens-particularly those relating to his assassination. An incident 
often cited in this regard occurred at his home in Springfield, 
Illinois. Lincoln related it to a few friends and associates, including 
Noah Brooks in 1864. Brooks shared it with the readers of Harper's 
New Monthly Magazine the following July-three months after 
Lincoln's death-recounting the president's story "as nearly as 
possible in his own words": 

It was just after my election in 1 860. ... I was well tired out, and 
went home to rest, throwing myself down on a lounge in my 
chamber. Opposite where I lay was a bureau, with a swinging- 
glass upon it-jand here he got up and placed furniture to illustrate 
the position]-and, looking in that glass, I saw myself reflected, 
nearly at full length; but my face, I noticed, had two separate and 
distinct images, the tip of the nose of one being about three inches 
from the tip of the other. I was a little bothered, perhaps startled, 
and got up and looked in the glass, but the illusion vanished. On 
lying down again I saw it a second time-plainer, if possible, than 
before; and then 1 noticed that one of the faces was a little paler, 
say five shades, than the other. I got up and the thing melted 
away, and I went off and, in the excitement of the hour, forgot all 
about it-nearly, but not quite, for the thing would once in a while 
come up, and give me a little pang, as though something 
uncomfortable had happened. When I went home I told my wife 
about it, and a few days after I tried the experiment again, when 
[with a laugh], sure enough, the thing came again; but I never 
succeeded in bringing the ghost back after that, though I once 
tried very industriously to show it to my wife, who was worried 
about it somewhat. She thought it was "a sign" that I was to be 
elected to a second term of office, and that the paleness of one of 
the faces was an omen that 1 should not see life through the last 
term. (Brooks 1 865, 224-225) 

The same story was told by Ward Hill Lamon in his book, 
Recollection s of Abraham Lincoln . Lamon was a friend of Lincoln's, 


Lincoln and the Paranormal; Investigative Files (Skeptical Inquirer May 1999) 

Page 2 of 7 

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a fearless man who accompanied him to Washington for his 
protection, being given the special title, Marshal of the District of 
Columbia. In discussing the matter of the double image in the 
mirror, Lamon stated: "Mr. Lincoln more than once told me that he 
could not explain this phenomenon" and "that he had tried to 
reproduce the double reflection at the Executive Mansion, but 
without success." In Lamon's account it was not Mrs. Lincoln but 
the president himself who thought the "ghostly" image foretold 
"that death would overtake him" before the end of his second term 
(Lamon 1995, 111-112). 

In recent years, paranormalists have gotten hold of Lincoln's 
anecdote and offered their own interpretations. Hans Holzer states 
that "What the President saw was a brief 'out of the body 
experience,' or astral projection," meaning "that the bonds 
between conscious mind and the unconscious are temporarily 
loosened and that the inner or true self has quickly slipped 
out" (Holzer 1995, 65). 

Such an explanation utterly fails to fit the evidence. Lincoln did not 
describe an out-of-body experience-a feeling of being outside 
one's physical self-but, according to Brooks (1865, 225), "The 
President, with his usual good sense, saw nothing in all this but an 
optical illusion." 

The nature of this optical illusion can be deduced from the 
circumstances. The double image was of Lincoln's face only, could 
be seen in a particular mirror but not others, and vanished and 
reappeared with respect to a certain vantage point. Taken 
together, these details are corroborative evidence that the mirror 
was the cause. An ordinary mirror can produce a slight double- 
image effect due to light reflecting off the front of the glass as well 
as off the silvering on the back. In modern mirrors this is usually 
not noticeable, and the shift in the image is slight in any event. 
But in the case of old mirrors, whose glass plates "were generally 
imperfect" (Cescinsky 1931), a distinct double image might be 
produced, like that shown in Figure 1. (Unfortunately, the actual 
mirror-topped bureau Lincoln described is no longer to be found at 
the Lincoln Home National Historic Site, much of the furniture 
having been dispersed in earlier years [Suits 1998].) 


Figure 1. Double image of author (and of photographer Rob 
McElroy) reproduces a curious effect experienced by 


Lincoln and the Paranormal; Investigative Files (Skeptical Inquirer May 1999) 

Page 3 of 7 

Abraham Lincoln in 1860 and thought by Mrs. Lincoln to be 

an omen. 

Dreams of Death 

The mirror incident sets the stage for claims of even more 
emphatically premonitory experiences. These were dreams Lincoln 
reportedly had that foretold dramatic events. One he related to his 
cabinet on April 14, 1865. The previous night he had dreamed he 
was in some mysterious boat, he said, "sailing toward a dark and 
indefinite shore." In another version it was of "a ship sailing 
rapidly" (Lewis 1973, 290). When Lincoln was assassinated only 
hours later, the dream was seen as weirdly prophetic. The story 
grew in the retellings which spread, says Lloyd Lewis in Myt hs 
After Lincoln (1973, 291) "around the world." 

In fact, Lincoln had not thought the dream presaged his death. He 
had actually mentioned it in reply to General Grant, his guest that 
Good Friday afternoon, who had expressed worries about General 
Sherman's fate in North Carolina. Lincoln felt that Sherman would 
be victorious because, he said, the dream had often come to him 
prior to significant events in the war. According to Lewis (1973, 
290): "For a President of the United States, in a time like the Civil 
War, to dream that he was sailing rapidly to an unseen shore was 
certainly not remarkable. Most of his waking hours, across four 
years, were spent in wondering where the Ship of State was 

Lincoln supposedly described an even more ominous dream to Mrs. 
Lincoln, not long before his assassination, then again to Ward Hill 
Lamon (1895, 115-116) who reconstructed Lincoln's words as 

About ten days ago, I retired very late. I had been up waiting for 
important dispatches from the front. I could not have been long in 
bed when I fell into a slumber, for I was weary. I soon began to 
dream. There seemed to be a death-like stillness about me. Then I 
heard subdued sobs, as if a number of people were weeping. I 
thought I left my bed and wandered downstairs. There the silence 
was broken by the same pitiful sobbing, but the mourners were 
invisible. . . . Determined to find the cause of a state of things so 
mysterious and so shocking, I kept on until 1 arrived at the East 
Room, which I entered. There 1 met with a sickening surprise. 
Before me was a catafalque, on which rested a corpse wrapped in 
funeral vestments. Around it were stationed soldiers who were 
acting as guards; and there was a throng of people, some gazing 
mournfully upon the corpse, whose face was covered, others 
weeping pitifully. "Who is dead in the White House?" I 
demanded of one of the soldiers. "The President," was his answer; 
"he was killed by an assassin!" Then came a loud burst of grief 
from the crowd, which awoke me from my dream. I slept no more 
that night; and although it was only a dream, I have been 
strangely annoyed by it ever since. 

Lamon's account may be true, although he has been criticized for 
having "fed the fire of superstition that people were kindling about 
the name of Lincoln" (Lewis 1973, 294). In fact, however, Lamon 
had added a sequel to the story which is invariably ignored: 

Once the President alluded to this terrible dream with some show 
of playful humor. "Hill." said he, "your apprehension of harm to 


Lincoln and the Paranormal; Investigative Files (Skeptical Inquirer May 1999) 

Page 4 of 7 

me from some hidden enemy is downright foolishness. For a long 
time yon have been trying to keep somebody-the Lord knows 
who- from killing me. Don't you see how it will turn out? In this 
dream it was not me, but some other fellow, that was killed. It 
seems that this ghostly assassin tried his hand on some one 
else."(Lamon 1895. 1 16- 117) 

In any event, that Lincoln should have dreamed of assassination- 
even his own-can scarcely be termed remarkable. Prior to his first 
inauguration in 1861, Pinkerton detectives had smuggled Lincoln 
into Washington at night to avoid a change of trains in Baltimore 
where an assassination plot had been uncovered (Neely 1982, 16- 
17). Lincoln had subsequently "received untold number of death 
threats" (St. George 1990, 66), and on one occasion had a hole 
shot through his top hat by a would-be assassin (Neely 1982, 

Among the Spirits 

Lamon (1895, 120) insisted that Lincoln "was no dabbler in 
divination-astrology, horoscopy, prophecy, ghostly lore, or 
witcheries of any sort." Yet soon after his death spiritualists sought 
to use Lincoln to give respectability to their practices by citing the 
occasions he had permitted seances in the White House, as well as 
to claim contact with his own departed spirit. The extent of 
Lincoln's involvement with spiritualism has been much debated. 

Actually, it was Mrs. Lincoln who was involved with spiritualists. 
She turned to them in her bereavement over the death of Willie, 
the Lincolns' beloved eleven-year-old son who died of "bilious 
fever" in 1862. One such spiritualist medium was Henrietta 
"Nettie" Colburn (1841-1892). Mary Todd Lincoln met her at a 
"circle" or seance at the Georgetown home of Cranstoun Laurie, 
chief clerk of the post office in Washington. On one occasion, a 
seance with Nettie was being held in the White House's Red Parlor 
when the president stumbled upon the group and watched with 
curiosity. Another time he accompanied Mary to a seance at the 
Lauries' home. At least one biographer has suggested that 
Lincoln's marginal involvement may have stemmed from a desire 
"to protect his gullible wife" (Temple 1995, 199). 

That was exactly what Lincoln did with regard to a trickster named 
Charles J. Colchester. Styling himself "Lord Colchester," he 
conducted seances wherein "spirit rappings" were produced. A 
concerned Lincoln asked Dr. Joseph Henry (1797-1878), the 
secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, for his advice about 
Colchester, whereupon Dr. Henry invited the medium to give a 
demonstration at his office. The scientist determined that the 
sounds came from Colchester and he suspected trickery. Later, 
Noah Brooks caught the medium cheating and warned Colchester 
not to return to the Executive Mansion (Temple 1995, 200). 
Lincoln himself was not interested in seances, but, according to 
Lloyd Lewis's Myths After Lincoln (1973, 301), "In these dark 
hocus-pocuses Mrs. Lincoln found comfort, and Lincoln let them go 
on for a time, careless of whether the intellectuals of the capital 
thought him addle-pated or no." 

Spectral Visits 

It is ironic that Lincoln did not believe in spiritualism, since his 
ghost is now reportedly so active. Although his Springfield home is 
decidedly unhaunted, according to curator Linda Suits (1998), who 


Lincoln and the Paranormal; Investigative Files (Skeptical Inquirer May 1 999) 

Page 5 of 7 

says neither she nor anyone she knows has had a ghostly 
encounter there, other places compete for attention. There have 
been numerous reported sightings of Lincoln's ghost at his tomb in 
Springfield as well as at Fort Monroe in Virginia and, in 
Washington, at both the White House and Ford's Theater (where 
Lincoln was assassinated) (Cohen 1989, 11; Winer and Osborn 
1979, 125; Jones 1996, 15). 

Understandably, perhaps, it is the White House that seems to 
receive the most attention-especially the "Lincoln 
Bedroom" (which, in Lincoln's time, was actually his office). The 
notion that his ghost frequents the stately rooms and corridors 
doubtless began with Mrs. Lincoln's post-assassination seances 
and it was probably given impetus by a figurative remark made by 
President Theodore Roosevelt (who served from 1901-1909): "I 
think of Lincoln, shambling, homely, with his strong, sad, deeply- 
furrowed face, all the time. I see him in the different rooms and in 
the halls" (St. George 1990, 84). Such feelings are still common 
and may trigger sightings among imaginative people and those 
predisposed to see ghosts. The first person to report actually 
seeing Lincoln's ghost was Grace Coolidge (First Lady from 1923 to 
1929), who saw his tall figure looking out an Oval Office window 
(Scott and Norman 1991, 74; Cohen 1989, 10). During her tenure, 
guests were lodged in the "Lincoln bedroom" and "Every newcomer 
was informed of the legend that when the great light over the front 
door was dimmed for the night the ghost of Abraham Lincoln was 
supposed to pace silently to and fro on the North Porch" (Ross 
1962, 109). 

Among subsequent Lincoln sightings was one by Queen Wilhelmina 
of the Netherlands (who had a prior interest in spiritualism). She 
was a guest of President Franklin D. Roosevelt when she heard a 
knock during the night at her bedroom door. Opening it, the 
drowsy queen saw the figure of Abraham Lincoln looking down at 
her, causing her to swoon (Ronan 1974, 40; Cohen 1989, 10). 
Religious leader Norman Vincent Peale claimed that a prominent 
actor (whom he would not name) had been a White House guest 
when he awoke to Lincoln's voice pleading for help. The actor sat 
up to see "the lanky form of Lincoln prostrate on the floor in 
prayer, arms outstretched with fingers digging into the 
carpet" (Winer and Osborn 1979, 135). And President Reagan's 
daughter Maureen said she had occasionally seen Lincoln's ghost- 
"an aura, sometimes red, sometimes orange"-during the night. So 
had her husband Dennis Revell (Caroli 1992, 39). 

These examples are typical of many ghost sightings that are due 
to common "waking dreams," an experience that occurs when 
someone is just going to sleep or waking up and perceives ghosts, 
lights, or other strange imagery (Nickell 1995, 41, 46). Other 
apparitions are most likely to be seen when one is tired, 
daydreaming, performing routine chores, or is otherwise in a 
reverie or dissociative state (see e.g., Mackenzie 1982). This may 
help explain sightings such as one by Eleanor Roosevelt's 
secretary, who passed by the Lincoln Bedroom one day and was 
frightened to see the ghostly president sitting on the bed and 
pulling on his boots (Alexander 1998, 43; Jones 1996, 8). 

Once the notion of a ghost is affixed to a place, almost anything- 
an unexplained noise, mechanical malfunction, misplaced object, 
or the like-can be added to the lore. For example, on one of my 
appearances on "The Michael Reagan Show," Mike told me an 
anecdote about his father and their dog, Rex. According to 
President Reagan, when passing the Lincoln Bedroom Rex would 


Lincoln and the Paranormal; Investigative Files (Skeptical Inquirer May 1999) 

Page 6 of 7 

often bark but would refuse to enter the room (Reagan 1998; see 
also Caroli 1992, 39, and Alexander 1998, 45). Mike related the 
story as more of a novelty than as proof of a supernatural 
occurrence. (President Reagan's daughter, Patti Davis, once asked 
her father if he had ever seen Lincoln's ghost. "'No,' my father 
answered-a bit sadly, I thought. 'I haven't seen him yet. But I do 
believe he's here'" [Davis 1995].) Neither the Bushes nor, as far as 
they could tell, their dog Millie ever saw the ghost of Lincoln, or 
indeed any of the other historical specters who are occasionally 
reported (Alexander 1998, 45). 

Not all of the reports of Lincoln's ghost, however, have featured 
apparitions. In earlier times there were frequent reports of sounds 
that were variously interpreted, some describing them as heavy 
footfalls (Cohen 1989, 10; Jones 1996, 8), others as knockings at 
the door, with Lincoln's ghost typically being thought responsible. 
Not only Queen Wilhelmina but also "Presidents from Theodore 
Roosevelt to Herbert Hoover and Harry Truman all said they heard 
mysterious rappings, often at their bedroom doors" (Scott and 
Norman 1991, 74). However, ghosthunter Hans Holzer (1995, 70) 
concedes: "President Truman, a skeptic, decided that the noises 
had to be due to 'natural' causes, such as the dangerous settling of 
the floors. He ordered the White House completely rebuilt, and 
perhaps this was a good thing: It would surely have collapsed soon 
after, according to the architect, General Edgerton." 

For all his greatness Abraham Lincoln was of course human. 
Among his foibles were a tendency to melancholy, a sense of 
fatalism, and a touch of superstition from his frontier upbringing. 
However, as this investigation demonstrates, neither his life nor 
his death offers proof of paranormal or supernatural occurrences- 
not his very human apprehensions of mortality, not his wife's sad 
seduction into spiritualism, and not the evidence, even if 
expressed as anecdotes of ghostly apparitions, that his great 
legacy lives on. 


I am grateful to S. L. Carson, Silver Spring, Maryland, for his 
helpful comments, and to Old as the Hills Antiques (at Kelly's 
Antique Market), Clarence, N.Y., for use of the vintage mirror. 


1. Among other implicitly paranormal claims relating to Lincoln 
are the "mysterious coincidences" that are often claimed 
between him and President John F. Kennedy. See Martin 
Gardner, The Magic Numbers of Dr. Mat rix (Buffalo: 
Prometheus, 1985) and Bruce Martin, "Coinci dence: 
Remarkable or Random? " Skeptical Inquirer 22(5) 
(September/October 1998): 23-28. 


• Alexander, John. 1998. Ghosts: Was hington Rev isited . Atglen, 
Pa.: Schiffer Publishing Ltd. 

• Brooks, Noah. "Personal Recollections of Abraham Lincoln," 
Harper's New Monthly Magazine. July, 222-226. 

• Caroli, Betty Boyd. 1992. Inside the W hite House. New York: 
Canopy Books. 


Lincoln and the Paranormal; Investigative Files (Skeptical Inquirer May 1999) 

Page 7 of 7 

Cescinsky, Herbert. 1931. Th e G entle Art of Faking Furniture. 

Reprinted New York: Dover, 1967, 135. 

Cohen, Daniel. 1989. The Encyclop edia of Ghosts . New York: 

Dorset Press. 

Davis, Patti. 1995. Angels Don't Die. New York: HarperCollins, 


Holzer, Hans. Gh osts, Hauntings an d Possessions: The Best of 

Hans Holzer , ed. by Raymond Buckland. 1995. St. Paul, Minn.: 

Llewellyn Publications. 

Jones, Merlin. 1996. Haunted Places. Boca Raton, Fla.: Globe 


Lamon, Ward Hill. 1895. R ecollecti o ns of Abraham Lincoln 

1847-1865. Chicago: A. C. McClurg and Co. 

Lewis, Lloyd. 1973. Myths After Lincoln . Gloucester, Mass.: 

Peter Smith. 

Mackenzie, Andrew. 1982. Hauntings and Apparitions . London: 

Heinemann Ltd. 

Neely, Mark E., Jr. 1982. The Abraham Lincoln Encyclopedia . 

New York: Da Capo. 

Nickell, Joe. 1995. Entities: Angels, Spirits, Demons, and Other 

Alien Beings . Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books. 

Reagan, Michael. 1998. "The Michael Reagan Show," October 


Ronan, Margaret. 1974. Strange Unsolved Mysteries . New 

York: Scholastic Book Services. 

Ross, Ishbel. 1962. Grace Coolidge and Her Era . New York: 

Dodd, Mead and Co. 

Scott, Beth, and Michael Norman. 1991. Haunted Heartland . 

New York: Dorset Press. 

St. George, Judith. 1990. The White House: Cornerstone of a 

Nation . New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons. 

Suits, Linda Norbut (curator, Lincoln Home, Springfield). 1998. 

Interview by author. 

Temple, Wayne C. 1995. Abraham Lincoln: From Skeptic to 

Prophet . Mahomet, III.: Mayhaven Publishing. 

Winer, Richard, and Nancy Osborn. 1979. Haunted Houses . 

New York: Bantam Books. 

About the Author 

Joe Nickell, CSICOP's Senior Research Fellow, is a collector of 
Abraham Lincoln memorabilia. His investigative articles relating to 
the sixteenth president have appeared in Lincoln Herald and The 
Journal of Forensic Identification. 

Related Information 

• Search CSICOP: Investigative Files 

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copyright by CSICOP or the respective copyright holders. Do not redistribute without obtaining permission. 

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The American Thinker Page 1 of 2 


Lincoln's Faith 

October 9th, 2005 

Much has been made of President George W. Bush's faith and devotion to religion since he declared with simple 
eloquence that his personal hero was "Christ" during a Republican primary debate in 2000. The mainstream media 
lampooned and criticized the President after author Bob Woodward revealed on 60 Minutes last year that President 
Bush said he sought "a higher power" than his former-President father in the lonely moments before committing 
United States forces into Iraq in 2003. 

In the current atmosphere of conventional wisdom mocking nearly every form of Judeo-Christian religion and 
accusing public officials who are public about their religious beliefs of breaching the intent of the Founders, it is 
important to again look to the past and the thoughts and meditations on the subject of previous Presidents and leaders. 
Perspective is needed, especially when it relates to the fanatical hatred of President Bush and the misunderstanding 
many have about his faith. 

A study on the religious principles and leadership of Abraham Lincoln, written nearly 60 years ago and just recently 
published by the late author's son, helps illuminate the thoughts and actions of the sixteenth President during one of 
the most trying times in our nation's history and helps bring the badly-needed perspective to bear today. 

Dr. G. George Fox wrote Abraham Lincoln 's Faith Based Leadership in 1959. Dr. Fox, who was also a rabbi, desired 
to show that President Lincoln was indeed "a believer" and used religion and religious belief in his presidency, while 
also drawing on Dr. Fox's own scholarship to further examine the President's beliefs. 

One of the unique aspects of Dr. Fox's work is that it intentionally looked beyond the self-imposed restrictions on 
celebrated volumes of the day such as The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, which deemed anecdotal evidence 
of the content of President Lincoln's religious life as incomplete and unworthy of inclusion of any published portrait 
of the President. Dr. Fox utilized early "utterances, memoirs, reminiscences and interviews" that many scholars to 
that point hastily discarded, but are prized by contemporary historians. This was a unique method when Dr. Fox first 
wrote his work, and at times one has to remember that indeed the manuscript was written decades ago, lest the reader 
dismiss the information within as common knowledge. 

Dr. Fox points to conversations Lincoln had with people who in turn jotted down their remembrances. Dr. Fox, for 
example, points out a conversation President Lincoln had with Gen. Sickles regarding prayer and the battles at 
Gettysburg and Vicksburg. Dr. Fox argues that such conversations are absent from the mainstream studies of Lincoln 
such as The Collected Works, but "vital" in understanding Lincoln's religion and his approach during wartime. 

Readers who recall with a laugh the carefully-crafted of image of Bill and Hillary Clinton rolling up to church, the 
President carrying a Bible the size of a law school book will enjoy Dr. Fox's juxtaposition of President Lincoln 
skepticism of "pious displays" of religious devotion while detailing his stone-cold knowledge of the Bible and its 
teachings is craftily executed. 

Among others with similar thoughts on the matter of faith, Dr. Fox cites Henry Whitney's observations of Lincoln 
driving "right straight to the essence and marrow of the subject." President Lincoln's reliance on the private act of 
prayer is also examined, relating to his "sublime faith" and certainty that the Lord stood on the side of right and 
Lincoln's anxiety that he was on the Lord's side. Dr. Fox cites reminiscence by Jesse Fell of Bloomington, Illinois, 
that follows in part: 

"He never attached himself to any religious society whatsoever. His religious views were eminently practical, print.php?article id=4891 10/13/2005 

The American Thinker Page 2 of 2 

and are summed up as I think in these two propositions: The Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. 
He fully believed in a superintending and overruling Providence, that guides and control the operations of the 
world; but maintained that law and order, and not their violation of suspension, are the appointed means by 
which this providence was exercised." 

Perhaps the most fascinating and unique discussion in this book is Dr. Fox's meditations on President Lincoln and the 
Biblical prophets. Dr. Fox posits that President Lincoln's knowledge of the ethical teachings of the prophets was 
"phenomenal." Putting his rabbinical studies and knowledge to great use, Dr. Fox profiles "Lincoln's Prophets," who 
included Moses, Jesus, Ezekiel, Isaiah and Jeremiah. Looking at various state papers of the Lincoln administration, 
Dr. Fox demonstrates that two proclamations for a Fast Day papers echo the burdens of Jeremiah and an excerpt from 
Ezekiel, respectively. Dr. Fox also shows how the Thanksgiving message of 1864 reads like Psalms 9 and 66. As 
Lincoln wrote in part: 

It has pleased Almighty God to prolong our national life another year, defending us with His guardian care 
against unfriendly designs from abroad, and vouchsafing us unto in His mercy, many and signal victories over 
the enemy, who is of our own household. It has also pleased our Heavenly Father to favor as well our citizens 
in their homes, as our soldiers in their camps, and our sailors on the rivers and seas, with unusual health. He has 
largely augmented our free population by emancipation and immigration, while he has opened to us new 
sources of wealth, and had crowned the labor of our workingmen in every department of industry, with 
abundant rewards. Moreover he has been pleased to animate and inspire our minds and hearts with fortitude, 
courage and resolution, sufficient for the great trial of civil war into which we have been brought by our 
adherence as a nation to the cause of freedom and humanity, and to afford to us reasonable hopes of an ultimate 
and happy deliverance from all our dangers and affiliations. 

Imagine if George W. Bush said that today. 

Dr. Fox finally argues that Abraham Lincoln was a modern-day Jeremiah, who both lived in times of great peril and 
died for their causes. Dr. Fox's use of state papers, anecdotal remembrances and the words of the Bible and Prophets 
is well-organized. Again, that this work was completed in 1959 yet still holds much value and perspective today is a 
testament to the craftsmanship and foresight of G. George Fox. In his introduction to the book, Dr. Fox wrote that he 
wished his writing "to have contributed some light to the study of the religion of Abraham Lincoln." His writing did 
so - and more. 

Matt May is a freelance writer and can be reached at matthewtmay(a)yahoo. com; his website is here. 

Matthew May print.php?article id=4891 1 0/1 3/2005 

venient to have a 
>r for all that gar- 

te for the privilege 

ator. The region of 

as the highest pro- 

s in favor of the 

the honor of hav- 





ame that letters to 
nnot be edited for 
rly for accuracy 
I suppose I am 
o believe that all 
,d bias when they 
lother matter. 
;ally to the recent 
• writer states, "... 
ith chlorine from 
ne tanks, will also 
chemical that will 
nt to the reclaimed 
aps she will tell us 
n be dangerous. But 
it, will she please tell 
of the chemical which 
i the salt content of the 
water? And would she 
,e amount of the increase? 
esearch chemist w<th more 
years of experience, I do not 
any such chemical is used in 
clamation plan for the city If 
jvill provide a name for the 
nical to be used, I would be hap- 
to look for it in my library and 
port any finding, with references, 
/ith regard to use, toxicity and other 
pertinent information which may 
assist them in a non-hysterical as- 
sessment of the dual water system. 

North Fort Myers 

tians how selfish and irrational most 
of their prayers really are; especial- 
ly during war time. 


No taxes for religion 

In a Feb. 24 column, Homer Pyle 
wrote, "The First Amendment has 
been turned upside down" and that 
the sole purpose of the "establish- 
ment" and "free exercise" clauses 
was "to prohibit government interfe- 
rence in religious freedom, either by 
establishing a religion or by forbid- 
ding religious exercises." Then he 
complained because "that same 'es 
tablishment* clause is used to sep 
rate religion from government." 

Now that we've heard from - 
Opinion page editor, Mr. Pyle, 
listen to the Supreme Court dec 
in the 1947 Everson case. It sta 
part that no government bo<' 
"pass laws which aid one r 
aid all religions, or prefer c 
gion over another," and tha< 
in any amount, large or sma 
levied to support any religi 
ities or institutions. In the 
Jefferson, the clause aga 
lishment of religion by ' 
tended to erect a "wall o 
between church and stat 
Homer Pyle echoe 
thinking of fundamen 
world absolutists whc 
man's tax dollars to • 
man's religion. Thi5 
it's horribly wrong? 
not blinded by reli 



Lincoln's faith 

I was amused at Homer Pyle's 
propaganda piece on the religion of 
Abe Lincoln. 

Although he did not say so, I was 
left with the impression, and I am 
sure others were, that he was at- 
tempting to associate Mr. Lmcoln 
with Christianity. At least, he failed 
to tell his readers that Lincoln was a 
deist and did not believe in the Jew- 
ish-Christian God of the Bible who in 
a fit of anger drowned all His chil- 
dren but eight, upheld slavery, polyg- 
amy, religious persecution and wars 
of extermination. 

Since space is limited in the Mail- 
bag, I would surest that Mr. Pyle 
read from Ingersoli's works, Volume 
12, pages 247 through 255. 

Mr Pyle should publish in tne 
News-Press Mark Twain's "The War 
Prayer." It might help to show Chris- 


I agree 
George Mar 
readers' p' 
lous so-ca 
bury" ar 
tacks or 

of ba